i feel so much better, part one.

This next post is going to come in two posts. Reason one, because I wrote part one a month ago and then just gave up on it; reason two, there have been two major things that I have done this summer to “change” my life. 

Something that has been on my mind recently is how good I feel. I know, I wouldn’t think that either because of my fibro diagnoses, but here I am talking about how great I feel. I keep thinking back to the summer of last year. I was trying to do the same things then, as I am doing now…maybe except the quitting smoking part. Last year was when I started to feel the first symptoms of fibro. I was running and exercising almost 5-6 days a week. I was feeling pretty good.

Until I started to notice that I had this terrible, awful pain in my legs. My legs felt swollen, it hurt to walk, and I just felt like I wanted to sit for a most of my day. My energy was zapped, I was foggy, and I just thought that it was my body getting used to running. So, I didn’t do anything until the end of September. I went to my doctor and he prescribed my Naproxen; thinking that it was similar pain to what I had a few years ago. I took it, when needed. But, nothing happened—the pain kept coming back, and seemed to be getting worse.

So, October-ish, my doctor sent me for blood tests. My sed rate was normal (frustrating), my blood sugar level was normal (apparently, my doctor thought it was diabetes. Sheesh. I would love it if doctors were a little more transparent. It was just like when I went into a patient first with a stomach bug, and my doctor gave me a pregnancy test). I didn’t know want to do. I was almost crying in his office (he’s my best friend’s uncle) because I as beside myself. There HAD to be something wrong with me.

At this point, I wasn’t working out, I was barely staying awake during the day. My spine, my legs, my head, everything was so bad. I remember coming home from class and literally just going up to my bed. I was so tired and depressed because I was so tired. I wasn’t doing anything, and yet I felt this bad. It hurt to walk, it hurt to teach, my memory was shitty, I felt like I was walking through a veil of fog every single day. Now, these things have become a lot clearer since I was diagnosed. I have the words that I needed then to explain to my doctor.

My doctor just looked at me, after I was finished with my sob story, and he said, “Stand up. I want to see something.” Um…. okay. He had me cross my arms over my chest and give myself a hug. He said, ‘How does that feel?” I thought, “This shit better be over soon, because this is terrible.” I said, “Not great.” And, he pushed….and I mean PUSHED on, what I know now to be, the trigger points for a fibro patient. He would ask me to explain how I was feeling once he pushed on the point—I had to restrain myself from yelping several times.

I had no idea what he was doing, all I knew is that I wanted him to stop. Finally, after he was finished and said, “Now, I’m not a rheumatologist, but I have seen this test done. It’s for fibromyalgia.” My head flashed to those commercials, and that one girl that I knew in college that had it. And, her life was kind of sad. So, I thought…what if my life becomes sad? I didn’t want that.

And, it hasn’t been that. I have had a love, hate relationships with fibro since November. Before fibro, my life was a constant rollercoaster of moods, or at least it seemed like it. I was up and down, I was stressed out by the tiniest thing, every small bump in the road was a major catastrophe in my life. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was rushing through everything, and I wasn’t taking the time to properly care for myself.

I definitely wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t exercising consistently. I was drinking too much, smoking too much. Just about the only thing I was doing right was praying and going to mass. But, I didn’t think that I needed to be taking care of myself. Before fibro, I didn’t think that I deserved to feel good about myself or feel healthy.

For the past 2 and a half weeks, I have been doing a lot of reflection. I have been reflecting on myself, my actions, my job; I have been taking stock of what has been helping me recently in multiple ways.

This, mostly likely, is because I took on two major “challenges” that are a complete 180 from what my life has been for the last decade or so. The first major challenge was quitting smoking—which could be considered the challenges to end all challenges. However, until I added training for a half-marathon to that list.

Let’s tackle my first challenge: quitting smoking. In one of my last blog posts, I wrote about smoking and quitting, but I relapsed for a period, but there was just one weekend when I wanted to be over it—kind of. I could get past not having nicotine, not smelling like smoke, not having my heart race. But, what I was going to miss was the actual action of smoking a cigarette. There was something “therapeutic” about taking that time. In a rational mind of a non-smoker, this doesn’t make sense—and probably even to some smokers it doesn’t make sense.

So, after attending a wedding, and realized that my life could not continue on the path that it was going—I bought a vape and prayed that this investment would work. I didn’t know what I was buying, I didn’t know if it would work, but I thought I have tried almost everything else…what the hell?

I downloaded the Smoke-Free app on my phone; which has been super helpful. I have been able to see how long it has been since my last cigarette, how much money I have saved, I am able to see pulse rate improvement, oxygen levels increasing, etc. So many positive things, and I have used this app before, with little success…but this time, it seems, that something has took. I can count on my one hand how many times I have slipped up—which, is amazing to me, because usually if I slip up, I go right back to smoking. Not this time. The cool thing about this is that you can track the cigarette you have, if you have them. Which, I have done, but only when I have been drinking. I haven’t smoked regularly or consistently, in 1 month, 6 days, and 23 hours.

The major things that I have noticed have obviously been my breathing, sleeping, and my energy levels. I didn’t realize how much my breathing suffered while I was smoking (yes, I am very, very good at lying to myself). I have more stamina, and I noticed that I wasn’t as out of shape as I was (when I ran The Color Run), but it was the cigarettes that were effecting my breathing (No shit, right?). My sleep is so much better—which has been huge for me.

I love sleeping; it is probably my favorite thing in the world. My mother always told me that I was such a good sleeper when I was a baby, and I don’t think much has changed. I sleep like a rock—it takes so much to wake me up in the morning, I have to set several alarms, have looked into getting a vibrating alarm clock, I have slept through earthquakes (seriously), and I love my bed.

But, since my diagnoses of fibro—my sleep patterns have been sporadic. When I first started seeing my rheumatologist he prescribed Flexaril because I was having trouble sleeping. It was hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and then get up in the morning. So, taking that has helped, but I didn’t realize how much not smoking was going to help, as well. I wake up more refreshed than ever, and I think I have more energy in the day. And, I always smoked a cigarette because I thought I needed more energy. Smoking is a good liar. Of course, my energy levels are being compounded with the sleep that I am getting—awesome; I don’t know if it is because I am not at school and seem to be more relaxed, or I am just adjusting to this new life, but I feel SO much better.

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The Release Project: Guilt

I have a guilty conscious. I am the person that walked into a store, looks around but doesn’t buy, and walks out hoping that the people don’t think that I just stole something. Yup. I am the person who thinks, “Did I do that?” When I most certainly hadn’t seen, or communicated with that person in weeks.

Some people would classify this as “Well, you care too much about what people think about you?” Yes, but no. I care about what the people are that the closest to me think of me. If I cared too much about what people think about me, I could never do what I do daily. Teaching is getting up in front of children and not caring about how they view you, because you’re there and they are there. The purpose isn’t a standoff, the purpose is to make sure that they learn something in that time you have them.

I care that my students think that I am fair, kind, and there for them. I don’t care that they think that I’m a tyrant for giving them work as a 4th quarter senior (They keep trying to make this a thing, but it’s not). Before lunch, two of my students literally were so annoyed at the work I keep giving them, they wrote a declaration of how they weren’t going to do work. I laughed at them.

So, no….I don’t get wrapped up in what people think about me. However, I am sensitive. I have always been sensitive. Being sensitive has always been something that I haven’t been totally comfortable with, but it seems that I have start getting comfortable with it because it is most certainly part of me. I am the girl that cried during The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Esmeralda lost consciousness and Quasimodo lifted her up over the cathedral. I was six, and I was sobbing. Why was I crying? I don’t remember at all, I didn’t understand what unrequited love was, but I knew that this was a strong emotion and I had some response to it.

Now, this type of reaction would carry with me my entire life; and I would spend half of my adult life trying to stifle it. Sensitive was a word that I heard very often after this movie. I would cry, scream, express emotions at inappropriate times, usually. I would hold emotions in until I couldn’t take it anymore, and then explode. I was a rollercoaster; most of this was puberty and hormones finding their home, but I can still be a little unpredictable with emotions.

I hated that people called me sensitive. Women in my family aren’t sensitive, they are strong. They are bold, and they don’t let emotions hold them back. I felt like none of these things when I was growing up. I felt disconnected, I felt like I was a black sheep, and I thought that everything that I was annoyed my family. Completely disconnected and totally lost in life, I sought out different ways to cope with these feelings.

I was friends with people that I probably shouldn’t have been friends with in high school, I started (not excessively), drinking, and most of all I started smoking. My mother, my grandmothers, my aunt, and my uncle were all smokers at some point in their lives. Somehow, in my delusional mind, I made the connection to smoking with a family thing—maybe that I would belong or something. I was so lost that I tried everything that I could.

So, smoking and I have had a relationship for the past ten years, on and off. Mostly on. After I mended my relationship with my family and my mother, I started thinking “Why am I still doing this?” It didn’t make sense, because I was doing something that was hurting me. But I thought it was helping me. At this point, smoking made gave me a lot of outs in life—if I felt uncomfortable or annoyed, I could step outside, if I felt awkward I could leave, it was a moment of quiet in my life. It didn’t make sense at all, but to me it did.

My friend, Judy, has been there through the whole smoking ordeal—and I have put her through a lot. I used to lie about this habit, and still partially do, to everyone. My family, my friends, students, coworkers. Because to me, this isn’t me. This is not something that I am, or something that I do. This lie has hurt a lot of people—including myself. But, lying about it hurt a lot of people in my life. It especially hurt my relationship with Judy. I lied about it constantly, and I just never listened to her. Partially, because it was because I wanted to do my own thing, and sew my oats. At that time, I was disconnected with smoking, because I was hiding it the best that I could, but it wasn’t really that great.

So, recently, I have been thinking about giving this habit up for good. It just doesn’t make sense for me—I have been working on me, who I am, and what I stand for. I had this habit, but I was going to yoga, I was working out, I was trying to eat healthy, but I was still smoking. I would break off of my cigarettes, but then I would experience something that would send me back to my habit. Fibro pain, my father’s death, stress, nervous breakdowns. I was sifting through so many things, that I didn’t know which way was up—who was I?

Since I started this “journey” (that I haven’t been consistent about documenting), I have been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly about who I am, and embracing myself completely; faults and all.  And, I have been trying to answer this disconnect this question about why I still have this habit that I swear I will stop, but seem to pick it back up. I have learned to cope with my own stress (I have really tried to bad stress in my life completely, because of the fibro), I have come to grips with my father’s death (and still go back and forth with grieving), and all the ups and downs in life I have learned to deal with it all.

So, how do I connect the dots now with smoking and my life. Well, there is no connection. For the past few days, I have been feeling low energy. I feel like I am giving out more than I am taking in The kids, people that I work with, there are things that have been out of my control that have been taking a toll on me. Like I said before, I have always been sensitive and I take on a lot from other people. A lot of problems that are not my own, I seem to take them on.

One of the girls that is in my grad class seems to be having a hard time, and I don’t know the whole story but I got a little stressed out for her. I don’t even know the whole story, but I felt so bad for her that she was feeling bad. I couldn’t make sense of it all. It was totally misplaced and weird, because the pain became my pain. How does this make sense? It doesn’t. Somehow, now smoking and stress has becoming to feeling stress and pain for other; overly empathetic. I felt that strong urge to start smoking again because of the pain that I was feeling for another person.

I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days, and I think that I found the connection for my disconnect. I experience and feel pain that is not my pain to feel, so I go back to something that should not be part of me. So, now I am struggling to put this habit down—the last few days I have slipped with letting this habit go. I pick it up, but them immediately regret it. It’s like I go into a trance when I want a cigarette. It’s all I think about, I legitimize it, and I make it reasons why I should do it. I know that I shouldn’t, I know that I don’t need it, but for some reason I think that if I just do it a little bit—it won’t be that bad.

But, now it’s hurting me in so many ways. It hurts my body, physically and it’s hurting my emotional game as well. I am relying on something that does not give anything back to me, at all. I have this abusive relationship with smoking, I know that it hurts me and doesn’t respect me but I keep going back to it and cannot break up with it. But, I want to make that change. I want to make that move. I have all these plans to be healthier and get better. I ordered all these vitamins, I have doing yoga, my prayers have definitely been off, but I think I need to fix that when I feel the urge to smoke. I need to be patient with myself, I need to forgive myself for the times that I have hurt myself, but that doesn’t mean that I need to continue down this road or make this my life.

Time to break up with the bad,  and get in a relationships with the good.

The Release Project: Be Gentle

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday I watched my goddaughter get baptized in the Catholic Church. When my cousin asked me to be the godmother to Viviane, I was a little bit shocked. I mean, Carolyn and I have always been close, but I thought of a dozen other people that I thought would make a better godmother than myself. I mean, here I am just going about my business—why do I get this great honor? To be a witness to such a great gift, a great experience, and I get to be a part of it all. I was, and still am, humbled. It was so beautiful being able to be a witness to my goddaughter; and promise to help her grown in the love and presence of God.

I realized that this weekend I missed blogging. I could come up with excuses as to why I didn’t get around to it, but the truth is that I was feeling lazy. I would think of things to write, but I was just feeling uninspired. Part of it was I started Spring Break at school, and I was just enjoying the fact that I was getting a much-needed break. But, I was also thinking of other things—money, the baptism, and so many things that caused me unnecessary anxiety.

During Lent I get these emails from Dynamic Catholic for a series called Best Lent Ever.  They are daily emails that have a video and reflections for that day during Lent. I loved getting them last year, but I have fallen behind on the videos—I am consistent with being inconsistent. So, this afternoon after I did yoga I caught up on the series. I actively tried to take notes and listen to what was being said in the videos. This past weekend, and maybe longer than that, I have been in a funk. I just felt like something was on my spirit, and when I get like that it’s pretty hard for me to bounce back, at least spiritually.

I was going through the reflections, and was noticing a pattern. It’s all about happiness and allowing yourself to stop resisting happiness in your life and that happiness that God wants for you. I wrote about things that make me happy—being present in the moment, practicing yoga, and prayer. I listed things that make me unhappy—comparison, insecurity, and judgment. As I listened to Matthew Kelly explain that we have this void that only God can fill, and we often seek things that to not bring us closer to God because we are lost and the things seek out are not big enough to fill God’s place.

The reflection for today really spoke to me. It was titled “Life is Messy.” Isn’t that the truth—I mean, I always seem to have this part of my life where I feel on top of the world, but then I get drawn into this negativity and this passivity that adds nothing to my life. I don’t feel happy, I feel overwhelmed, my attitude changes, and I know that I am not being true to who I am and what God wants for me.

I woke up today sore—I almost didn’t want to get out of bed. Saturday night we were out late, and I had a little too much wine. So, Sunday morning was rough in the beginning—but since coming to grips with fibro, any night like that will set me back a few days. But, I was just feeling blah. I didn’t want to try for anything, I just want to lay in bed all day. But, something in my head refused to let that feeling take over, and I got up. I went to Rite Aid to get my meds, came home, threw out some old products in my drawers, and decided that I was going to do something yoga.

I felt like I need something gentle. I follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube—she is great! Bubbly, happy, and her practice is all about finding what feels goods. So, you don’t have the worry about staring at her making sure your pose is exactly like hers. At the beginning of the year she started this Revolution series—where you practice taking care of yourself and learning to move through love and gratitude on the mat—in hopes that it will transfer off the mat. The first day of the series—Practice Ease. Sign me up.

This was a little more fast paced than Yin, but it was not Vinyasa. Yin is good for days where you might be having a little flare or are feeling stiff, but want to do something to make you feel better. Yin really clears my headspace when I am fight fibro fog. But, this was easy. The movements were more about finding and creating space in the body to make room in the future. It was a little challenging, and I did break a sweat; but I feel so much better about after done something that I always promise myself to do…but never actually end of doing.

I did some of the reflections after yoga, and like a stared previously, the reflection for today was perfectly in line with the yoga practice I did. The focus was on being gentle with yourself and with other because you never know what someone else is carrying on their shoulders. Something just clicked in my mind about this was a day to be gentle to myself. I take my medications, I make sure to pray, do some sort of movement with the body, say no to things that don’t serve you, and do things that you really enjoy.

While it still might be difficult to move around and focusing on tasks, I know that if I move with gentleness and ease, it will make the day better for me. Focusing on the steps to getting there instead of worrying about the final destination helps me keep myself in check, and be gentle with myself.